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Stories from the 
Christian East 




Stories from the 



Christian East, by 

* 

Stephen Gaselee . 



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London : Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd. 
3, Adam Street, Adelphi, W.C. 2. 1918 










TO 



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Preface 

THE note beneath the title of each story merely 
indicates the version from which it was translated 
for the uresent volume, and not the original 
language in which each was first written, which is often a 
matter of doubt. 

The pictures were drawn JSy my friend Mr. John Mavro- 

","",' ' ,' ,' 
gordato, to whom 1 heie tender my best thanks. 

S. G. 



Contents 



PAGE 

THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS AND HIS WIFE TuEon.iE . 3 

ABBOT GERASIMUS AND THE LION . . . . .21 

THE STORY OF THE FAITHFUL LAWYER . . . 27 

THE STORY OF SAINT MENAS AND THE EGG . . . -35 

THE REWARD OF CHARITY . . . . . -43 

THE STORY OF DOROTHEOS AND THEOPISTE . . . -49 

THE LITTLE PRIESTS . . . . . . 6l 

TAKLA HAYMANOT AND THE TREE DEVIL . . . -67 

SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE . . . . . - 75 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 
AND HIS WIFE THEOPISTE 

From the Coptic 



B 



The Story of Eustathius Placidus and 
his JVife Theopiste 



IN the days when the Emperor Trajan ruled Rome and 
the world, there lived a certain general named Placidus. 
He was a heathen, for he had never heard of the good 
tidings of Christ, but he lived a good life according to his 
lights : not only was he so strong and successful in war that 
the barbarian enemies of Rome trembled at the mention of 
his name, not only did he exceed all the other nobles of the 
Emperor's Court in wealth gold, and silver, and troops of 
slaves but he shewed himself a very father of the poor and 
protector of the weak. He clothed the naked, he helped the 
oppressed, he relieved those who were in distress, he fed the 
hungry, he redeemed those who had been condemned to be 
sold into slavery ; and he had a wife, as good as she was 
beautiful, though a heathen like himself, who was not behind 
him in good works ; she had borne him two sons, and these 
were being brought up in the same paths of virtue as those in 
which their parents walked. 

Now Placidus, like all good gentlemen, was a good sports- 
man ; and he knew no greater pleasure than to hunt wild 
beasts in the mountainous country near his home. One day 
he was out a-hunting with many of his friends, his soldiers, 
and his slaves, and came upon a herd of deer feeding ; he 
ordered chase to be given them, and rode forward himself 
in front of all his company. Soon he picked out a stag that 



4 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

seemed to stand out as the biggest and finest of the herd, and 
began to ride it down : the stag broke away, and presently 
took refuge in a large thicket on the side of the mountain. 
By this time Placidus was far ahead of his companions, and 
without further thought of them he put spurs to his horse 
and rode into the wood : and he rode on and on alone until 
he came through to the far side of it, his horse tired and weary ; 
and when he was through he saw the stag standing on the top 
of the hill above him. 

Long he watched the animal from below, wondering what 
stratagem to adopt in order to reach him ; and as he watched 
with fixed eyes, lo, a very marvellous thing happened : for 
between the stag's antlers there began to glow a cross, and 
on the cross that very figure in which the Son of God took 
human shape to dwell among us. And the figure cried out to 
Placidus in a human voice, saying : " Why dost thou hunt 
Me, Placidus ? I am Jesus, whom thou didst serve without 
knowing it, and thy kind and charitable deeds have come 
before Me : therefore now have I become the hunter, and 
I have snared thee by means of this unreasoning animal, I 
have netted thee with the nets of My God-head." 

At these words Placidus was so greatly terrified and as- 
tonished that he fell down prostrate on the ground ; and 
then, when he had a little recovered, he murmured : " What 
is this sight that I have seen, this voice that I have heard ? 
Make Thyself manifest to me, O Thou who speakest with 
me, and I will believe in Thee." Then the Lord told him 
who He was, and explained to him the mysteries of our 
creation and our redemption : and when Placidus answered 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 5 

that he believed indeed, and only wished to know how to 
enter the Christian faith and to join the Church, He bade 
him go to the Bishop of Rome, and ask from him that great 
gift that is given freely and without price, the adorable gift 
of baptism, and to ask the same for his wife and all his family. 
So Placidus hurried home : and when he had bathed and 
rested, and evening was come, he related what he had seen to 
his wife and his two sons ; and to his still greater wonder his 
wife cried out : " This is He, the crucified, the God of the 
Christians ! Last night in my sleep I saw a vision of One 
whom I could not but worship : and when I asked Him who 
He was, He answered, ' To-morrow do thou and thy husband 
and thy two sons come unto Me,' and now you have shewn me 
how we may be saved indeed. So let us quickly seek the 
fountain of Salvation." Then, as night drew on, they took 
their two sons and those familiar slaves whom they could 
best trust, and went secretly to the Bishop of Rome, and told 
him all the story, and prayed him for the gift of baptism : 
and he consented, and baptised them all, and gave them new 
and Christian names ; to Placidus he gave the name of 
Eustathius or " he that stands fast," and he called his wife 
Theopiste, "she that puts her trust in God," and the elder 
son Agapius, or " the loving one," and the younger son he 
called Theopistus, after his mother. And when he had 
baptised them, he gave them the great Sacrament of the 
Lord's Body and Blood, and sent them away with his blessing. 
Now Eustathius, for so we must now call him, could not 
rest until he could visit again the place where he had seen 
the wondrous stag, hoping to speak again with his God ; and 



6 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

it was not long before he came again to the mountain which 
had been the scene of his vision. There he sent away all his 
retainers and servants, and knelt down and prayed, and 
besought that the vision might come to him again. Nor had 
he long to wait : for soon he saw the stag again, with the 
cross and the Crucified between its horns ; and the Saviour 
addressed him in loving words: "Well done, Eustathius, 
because thou hast received the washing of grace, and life 
eternal is thine. But I have somewhat to tell thee : the enemy 
of mankind is exceedingly furious and envious against thee, 
because thou hast cast him behind thee : and even now he 
plots against thee, and although thou must become a second 
Job, to go through trials and sorrows manifold, yet endure, 
and in the end thou shalt come to thy former estate and 
more." " Even so, Lord," answered Eustathius ; " for Thy 
sake I am ready to undergo every trouble and trial." And 
he went home, and told the divine message to his wife, and 
both fell on their knees, praying in those words which Christ 
Himself did teach us : " Thy will be done." 

Now after a few days the Enemy began to have his wicked 
will. First a pestilence broke out in the house of Eustathius, 
and all his slaves died : and soon it spread to all else that 
belonged to him, and in like manner perished all his horses 
and cattle and sheep ; and he thought it better to leave the 
tainted house, so that he took his wife and his two sons, and 
moved to another. And when thieves came to know that the 
former splendid palace was empty, they broke in by night 
and robbed it and left it bare, leaving nothing behind, neither 
gold nor silver nor raiment. And all these troubles Eustathius 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 7 

and Theopiste bore with a tranquil and untroubled mind, 
only thanking God that He had left them their children 
unhurt. 

In those days the Emperor Trajan returned from fighting 
with the Persians : he had gained a great victory over them, 
and he ordained rejoicings throughout Rome, and he gave a 
splendid feast to all his nobles. Eustathius, as one of his 
chiefest generals, should have gone to it : but in his state of 
poverty and misfortune he thought that it would be un- 
seemly to be present : and he and his wife decided that it 
would be better not to stay in Rome, where all had known 
them, to be a laughing-stock to those who remembered their 
former greatness ; and they took their two sons and went 
aboard a ship bound for Egypt. At the feast the Emperor 
missed him, and sent to what had been his palace, and 
enquired after him : and when he and his nobles heard that 
in so short a space of time his estate had been turned from 
wealth and happiness to poverty and misery, and that he was 
now nowhere to be found, they were both astonished and 
sorry, and mourned for his misfortunes. 

We left Eustathius and Theopiste on ship-board, for Egypt 
bound. Now when the shores of that country came in sight, 
the captain of the ship went to Eustathius, and asked him for 
the money for his passage ; and Eustathius answered with 
tears and sighs that he was a poor man, and had no money, 
and asked that the debt might be forgiven him for the love 
of God. When the captain heard this he was secretly pleased, 
for he had cast longing eyes on Theopiste, who was a 
woman of most exquisite beauty, and he saw that this was a 



8 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

chance of getting her for his own ; so he pretended to be 
furiously angry, and said to Eustathius that he would take his 
wife instead of the passage money : and when Eustathius 
implored his mercy and protested against this cruel and 
shameful action, he bade two of his sailors take up Eustathius 
as if to cast him into the sea, unless he would remain quiet 
and promise him not to make any complaint when he came 
ashore. So poor Eustathius was obliged to go alone, leaving 
Theopiste behind : and he landed, and wandered through 
Egypt, leading his two little sons one by each hand, begging 
just enough bread for the three of them to live upon. 

Once when he had reached the upper part of Egypt, he 
found that it was necessary to cross the Nile, for the path on 
the side where he was going came to an end and only went on 
upon the other bank. He was a good swimmer, .but the Nile 
was high in flood and flowing very swiftly, so that he could 
not swim over with the two boys together : and he decided to 
leave one on shore and swim over with the other, and then 
to return and fetch the first. He began to do so, and had 
safely brought across the first boy, and was just swimming 
back to fetch the second, but what was his horror when he 
saw, while in mid-stream, a lion bound up and carry off the 
waiting child ! His tears and groans were unavailing, but he 
comforted himself with the thought that he at least still had 
one son left, and turned back towards him ; but oh, worse 
horror still, long before he could reach the bank a great wolf 
rushed up and seized the second bpy, and carried him off 
before his father's agonized eyes ! Then indeed he was in 
despair, and he thought of letting himself go beneath the 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 9 

waves and drown ; but he knew that self-murder was a sin 
before God, and he decided that he must bear whatever was 
sent him : so he swam to the shore, and struck off, the most 
miserable man on earth save for his faith, into the desert ; 
and presently he came to a village, where he hired himself 
out to work in the fields for a pitiful wage. 

Now let me interrupt the story of Eustathius for a few 
minutes to tell you what became of the two boys. The lion 
went off into the country, and was there seen by some shep- 
herds running along with the child in his mouth ; and they 
saw that the child was alive and seemed to be unhurt, and 
thought that God's providence had ordained that he should 
be saved from the beast ; so they threw great stones at it, 
and at last the lion dropped the child and ran away, and the 
shepherds picked up the lad, and took him home to their 
village. And nearly the same kind of thing happened to the 
other boy ; for some men who were ploughing saw the wolf 
dragging him along, and gave chase, and the wolf dropped 
him, and they too took him home to their wives to be reared. 
It happened that the shepherds and the ploughmen lived 
near the same town, so that the two brothers were brought 
up quite close to one another : but shepherds and ploughmen 
live different kinds of lives, so that the two boys never saw 
one another until they had forgotten most of their early 
adventures they never knew that they were brothers. And 
in like manner all this time the protection and shadow of 
the Most High was over their mother, the wife of Eustathius ; 
for though the cruel ship's captain carried her off to his own 
barbarian land, yet some mysterious power seemed to be over 



io STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

her and he was never able to take her to wife : she lived there 
alone, admired and respected by all, and at last the captain 
died. 

Now after many days the people of that barbarian country 
where Theopiste lived rose in revolt against the Emperor of 
Rome : and at first their warfare was successful, and it seemed 
as if the Empire must soon be hard pressed. Then the 
Emperor Trajan remembered his former general Placidus, 
and bethought him how he used always to be victorious in 
his wars against barbarous peoples, and he washed that he 
had him again to set him at the head of his armies : and as 
he had never heard of his death, he thought that he might be 
living in some distant land, and he promised great riches and 
honours to any of his servants who should find him and bring 
him back to Rome to the Emperor's presence. 

Two officers in the Emperor's army decided to under- 
take this search : and this not only for the great rewards 
promised if they were successful, but because in old times 
they had been among Placidus' most faithful servants, and 
had loved him dearly, and they hoped eagerly that they might 
be lucky enough to find him again. So they departed to seek 
after him : and very thoroughly they searched the whole 
kingdom, every town and hamlet, until at last they came to 
the village where Placidus (whom we must now call Eusta- 
thius) was living. When they entered it, Eustathius saw them 
from afar off, and his heart was moved within him, and as he 
worked he prayed thus : " O Lord God, since Thou hast let 
me see these my old servants and friends, Thou hast surely 
allowed hope to rise again within my heart. I know that both 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 11 

my children are dead, the prey of savage beasts : do Thou 
grant me to see them in the Resurrection at the last day. But 
as for my wife, is it possible that Thou wilt allow me to look 
upon her in this life as well ? ' And as he prayed a voice 
seemed to answer within him : " Be of good cheer, Eusta- 
thius ; thou shalt be raised to the great estate which thou 
didst have formerly, and shalt see both thy wife and thy 
children ; and if thou do not deny Me, in the Resurrection 
thou shalt see all that is good for ever and ever." 

Comforted by these words, Eustathius came down into 
the village and approached the two soldiers ; he knew them 
well, but they did not recognise him, so changed was he by 
his years of toil and sorrow. They spoke to him first : " Hail, 
good sir ! ' said they ; and when he had greeted them in 
return, they continued : " Do you know if there lives a 
stranger in this place with wife and children, named Placidus ? 
If you can tell us where he lives, and how to find him, we 
will reward you well." " Why do you want him ? ' said 
Placidus. " He was a fellow-soldier of ours," they answered, 
' and we have been looking for him for a very long time." 
" I do not know him," said Eustathius ; " but at any rate 
come into my cottage and rest ; you look tired, and it is late 
in the day : you are strangers here, and I am a stranger too." 

They suffered themselves to be persuaded by Eustathius 
and entered his cottage and sat down : and first he brought 
them water to wash off the stains of their long journey, and 
then he went out to his master, and begged of him some food 
and wine, for which he promised to pay when his wages were 
due ; and this he set before them, and they ate gladly. Now 



12 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

while he sat talking with them, they were struck with some- 
thing in his face that seemed familiar : and little by little 
they began to recognise in him the lineaments of their old 
master. At last one of them whispered to the other : " Do 
you remember how many years ago, fighting against the 
savages, Placidus was wounded on the neck by a spear, and 
the wound left a scar ? By this we shall be able to know for 
certain whether we have found the object of our search or no." 
So they made some pretext for standing up and looking from 
behind at Eustathius as he sat ; and there they saw the 
old scar ! Then both could no longer control themselves : 
they fell upon him and kissed him, crying : " You are the 
General Placidus, for whom we have been seeking so long " ; 
and although at first he persisted in his denial, yet they 
insisted, until he was forced to admit that it was indeed he. 
But when they asked him : " Where are your wife and chil- 
dren ? '' he answered sadly: " They are dead," and hearing 
this, they wept, and lamented their good mistress with so 
loud a cry that all the village came running together to see 
what had happened. Then the soldiers told the villagers who 
was the man who had served among them, unbeknown, as a 
hireling ; and they clad him in a rich robe, and after they 
had rewarded the villagers, at his request, for the kindly 
manner in which they had treated him during his servitude, 
all three set out on the homeward journey to Rome. And 
as they travelled, Eustathius told them of all his adventures, 
and how he had been bereaved of all that he had loved. 

After fifteen days' journey they came to the place where 
the Emperor was encamped : and he came out to meet his 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 13 

old general, and kissed him, and asked him the reason of his 
long absence and what had happened to him while he was 
away ; and Eustathius told him his whole story. The 
Emperor made him his commander-in-chief, and showered 
upon him every honour that he could give, wishing to comfort 
him for his great losses ; but Eustathius could never really be 
happy, when he thought upon his wife and children and his 
happy family life in former times, and then upon his present 
bereavement. 

Eustathius, in the duties of his new office, made a thorough 
inspection of Trajan's army: and comparing it with the 
size of the barbarian army, of which he was well informed, 
he came to the conclusion that it was not sufficiently strong 
to bring the war to a successful end. He informed the 
Emperor of this, and he advised him to adopt some form of 
universal service, and to enlist recruits throughout the 
Empire : and the Emperor listened gladly to his counsel, 
and sent letters to every town and village, ordering that all 
the young men most fit to serve should be trained as soldiers 
and should be enlisted in the army. Now in time these letters 
came to the far village where Eustathius' two sons, unknown 
to each other and to their father, were growing up, and the 
men of the village bore witness concerning them, that they 
were the finest and strongest among the youths of the place, 
and they would make the best soldiers : so both of them 
were enlisted and sent to the Emperor's head-quarters : and 
there Eustathius saw them, and although he knew not who 
they were, his heart yearned towards them, and seeing by 
their carriage and manners that they must be of good birth, 



14 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

he appointed them both to be his personal attendants ; so 
they waited upon him and executed all his commands, and 
he grew to love them more and more, and finally he ordered 
that they should eat with him at his own table. 

When the recruits had all been enrolled and the army of 
the Roman Empire brought up to great strength, Eustathius 
began to move forward against the barabarians : and he was 
wholly successful ki the war, and invaded their country, 
driving the enemy before him ; and at last it happened by 
accident, or rather by the good providence of God, that he 
came to the town where his wife, all unknown to him, was 
living. As I told you, the wicked sea-captain who had 
carried her off was dead, and after his death she had gone to 
lodge with some people of the town ; and desiring to be 
much alone, she had built herself a kind of hut or booth in 
the garden, and there she lived, working by day, and dividing 
the night between sleep and prayer. Now it chanced that 
Eustathius pitched his camp almost at this very house : and 
his two young attendants put up a tent in the garden of it, 
only a yard or two away from the booth in which their mother 
lived, so that when they talked loud she could hear every 
word they said. 

One day, their military work being done, they were sitting 
in their tent talking : and they began to tell each other all 
that they could remember about their early life ; and their 
mother was sitting in her booth only a few feet away, listen- 
ing. And the elder of the two said to the other : " It is little 
indeed that I can remember of my childhood : but I know 
that my father was a general, and that my mother was a very 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 15 

beautiful woman : there was another child, younger than 
myself a lovely boy, with light hair. I remember us all 
leaving our house one dark night, and going on board ship, 
and sailing away ; and when we arrived at the end of our 
journey, my mother remained aboard, though I never knew 
why, and my father took the two of us and led us away on 
shore, weeping the while. I remember that he came to a 
river and left me on the bank and swam across with my little 
brother : and while he was coming back to fetch me, a lion 
sprang out and seized me in his mouth, and went off with 
me into the desert ; but before he could do me any harm, 
some shepherds drove him off and saved me, and they brought 
me up among them : but I never knew what happened to my 
little brother and to my father." 

No sooner had the elder of the two young men finished 
speaking, than the younger leapt up and fell upon his neck 
and kissed him crying : " You are my brother, my dear, dear 
brother. I too was seized by a wild beast, a wolf, and some 
ploughmen saved me from him, and brought me up in the 
same village " ; and so they stayed, hugging each other and 
weeping for joy, because each had found a brother whom he 
had believed to be lost. 

Who can imagine what Theopiste thought, while all this 
was going on ? She could not help believing that these were 
her two sons, when she heard their stories, and yet she could 
not believe the evidence of her ears : you cannot be surprised 
that her eyes told her nothing, for they were now grown 
youths, and she had never seen them since they were quite 
babies. But more and more she became certain that thev 



1 6 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

were her sons indeed, but she would not do anything rash, 
but decided to wait until the next day and to make up her 
mind at leisure how to act. 

The next day she asked for and obtained an audience with 
the General ; and she began thus : " Although I have now 
lived long among these barbarians, I am not one of them : I 
am a woman of Rome, carried off here into captivity. So 
now I ask, since the Roman arms are victorious, that I may 
be sent off back to my own country." She would have said 
more, but her voice failed her : for while she was speaking 
she had looked attentively at the General, and she had begun 
to recognise in him the look and lineaments of her long-lost 
husband. Eustathius was of course surprised at her sudden 
silence and at last she could contain herself no more and 
broke out : " Tell me, I pray you, tell me true : are you the 
general that was once called Placidus, but whose name was 
changed to Eustathius after a vision of Christ and holy 
baptism ; who set out with wife and children on ship-board ; 
whose wife was carried off by the cruel ship's captain to a 
barbarous land ? That woman am I : but here I swear to 
you that I am now just as when I was parted from you, for 
the Shadow of the Most High was about me, and the captain 
was never able to make me his wife, and since his death I have 
lived all alone in a booth in the garden of this house." 

She had hardly begun to speak when Eustathius began to 
look closely at her, and by the time that she had finished, he 
had recognised her for certain, and had her in his arms. What 
a scene of joy when that parted pair met again ! Yet there 
was still some sorrow in his heart, for he thought of his two 



THE STORY OF EUSTATHIUS PLACIDUS 17 

little sons. He told his wife how wild beasts had carried them 
off, but she smiled, and said : " Let us give thanks to God ; 
for even as He has brought you and me together, so He may 
bring back our sons to us." Eustathius again told her how, as 
he thought, they had perished ; and then she recounted to 
him all that she had heard in her booth in the garden ; and 
he sent for the two young men, and bade them tell him all 
that they could remember of their early lives ; and no sooner 
had they done so than he was sure that they were his sons 
indeed, and he gathered them to his arms, and kissed them : 
and so was this whole happy family united in one again. And 
very soon Eustathius finished the war, and went back to Rome 
with his wife and his sons, and great quantities of wealth, both 
gold and captives, that he had taken from the barbarians, and 
Trajan gave him all his former honours and added even more 
unto them, so that he was still more prosperous and happy 
than he had been of old. And thus they lived long and w^ell, 
and when, after Trajan's death, another Emperor came to 
the throne and tried to make them give up the worship of 
Christ, they were not afraid after a happy life to bear a good 
witness before God and before men, and ended their days 
constantly with the glorious and imperishable crown of 
martyrdom. 



ABBOT GERASIMUS AND THE LION 

From the Greek 



Abbot Gerasimus and the Lion 



IN the Holy Land, about a mile from the river Jordan, 
stood a famous monastery ; and the head of it was a 
good and saintly man, called Gerasimus. He was one 
day walking by the river bank, when he was astonished, and 
not a little frightened, to see a lion coming towards him, 
roaring : but when the lion had approached nearer, he saw 
that he was roaring from pain, and not from anger, and that 
he was holding up one paw, as if asking him to look at it, and 
to help him if he could. The Abbot plucked up courage to 
look more closely at it, and then he saw that a sharp thorn 
had gone right through the pad of the paw ; it was bleeding, 
and the wound had made the flesh fester, so that it must 
clearly be hurting him badly. He took the paw in his hands, 
opened up the wound, drew out the thorn, and cleaned the 
place of all the festering matter that had collected there ; and 
then tying it up carefully with a piece of rag, told the lion to 
be off. But the gentle beast, when he found himself cured, 
refused to go away, and treated the Abbot as his master : he 
followed him wherever he went, and soon the monks, though 
at first they had been frightened of so savage a visitor, became 
quite used to the new disciple : and what showed more than 
anything else his changed nature was that he no longer 
wanted his former diet of flesh and bones, but was quite con- 
tented with the simple food, bread and boiled vegetables, 
which Gerasimus gave him. 



21 



22 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

Now the brothers of this monastery lived, as all monks 
should, a very poor and simple life : and to help them in the 
work of the place they had only one beast of burden, a single 
donkey. The monastery itself was in rather a barren spot, 
and the grass which served for the donkey's food was some 
way off : and every evening, after the day's work was 
done, they used to take the donkey's harness off and lead it 
away to feed. After a time, seeing that the lion was so good 
and tame, they did not see why they should not make use of 
him, and so they used to send him out in charge of the donkey : 
the lion took it out every evening to the grass, waited there 
while it ate its fill, and then brought it back safely to the 
monastery. But one dreadful day the lion, while the donkey 
was feeding, went some distance off : and while he was gone, 
a camel-driver from Arabia passed by, and seeing a handsome 
donkey without anybody to look after it, stole it and took it 
away with him. The lion looked long and fruitlessly for his 
charge, and then was obliged to go home sadly and alone ; 
he went to the Abbot and stood there before him, his tail 
between his legs, and his face cast down to the ground, a 
picture of misery. Gerasimus not unnaturally thought that 
the lion had gone back to his old habits and had killed the 
donkey, and asked him sternly, " Where is the donkey ? ' Of 
course the lion could not tell him, not being a man, but stood 
there with eyes fixed on the ground, and remained silent. " I 
believe you have eaten it," the Abbot went on. " Very well, 
now you will have to do all the work that the donkey used to 
do before." So the donkey's harness was put on the lion, and 
every day he went down to the river with a kind of frame on 



ABBOT GERASIMUS AND THE LION 23 

his back, on which were four large jars, and he had to bring 
them back to the monastery full of water for the use of- the 
monks ; and this he did regularly until one day a soldier, who 
had come to get Abbot Gerasimus' blessing, took pity at the 
sight of so noble a beast engaged in such menial toil, and 
gave the monastery enough money to buy another ass to do 
the work. 

Not so very long after this had happened, the camel- 
driver who had gone to Jerusalem in order to sell his dates, 
came back again on his homeward journey: and soon after 
he had crossed the river, he met the lion, which frightened 
him so greatly that he left all his camels and the rest of his 
train, and ran away. The lion at once recognised his old 
donkey, and ran up to him, and began to lick him for pleasure ; 
and then he took hold of the bridle between his teeth, and led 
him, together with the three richly laden camels the driver 
had left, to the Abbot, and by his roaring and frisking, and 
wagging his tail, showed the old man how r pleased he was to 
have found the stolen property, and thus to be cleared of the 
charge of having eaten the donkey that belonged to his 
masters. I need hardly tell you that he was taken back into 
full favour by the Abbot, who was sorry for having misjudged 
him, and that after that time he lived an honourable life with 
the monks, helping them in their toil and edifying all by the 
gentleness and docility of his behaviour. 

So five years passed, five happy years, and then it happened 
that in God's good providence Gerasimus fell suddenly sick, 
and after only a few hours' illness was called to the glory of 
his Lord : and all this happened at a moment when it so 



24 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

chanced that the lion was away from the monastery for a short 
time. When he came back, he went round looking for his old 
master ; and he met Father Sabbatius, who had been Gerasi- 
mus' disciple, who said to him, " Dear lion, our father has 
left us orphans, and has departed to the Lord : cheer up as 
best you may, and take something to eat." But the lion went 
on searching every nook and corner for Gerasimus : and at 
last, as Sabbatius and the other monks could not make him 
understand what had happened, they led him out to the old 
man's grave, which was a few paces outside the monastery in 
the churchyard, and they pointed to the mound, and then 
showed by their grief and tears that the mortal remains of 
their dear father were beneath it. At last the lion under- 
stood, and with a great roar dropped on the grave, beating 
his head on the ground ; and there he stayed, refusing to 
take food or drink, until at the end of three days he died, 
right over his master's body. May God grant that we may 
show ourselves as faithful to our heavenly Master, as did this 
poor, dumb, soulless beast to the man who had been kind to 
him upon earth ! Amen. 



THE STORY OF THE FAITHFUL LAWYER 

From the Latin 



The Story of the Faithful Lawyer 



MANY years ago, when the good Emperor Maurice 
ruled over Constantinople, there lived in that city a 
good and pious young lawyer: and one day when 
he was sitting in his office, in came a man richly dressed and 
of grave mien, who seemed by his appearance to be a merchant 
or banker, and asked the lawyer if he would act for him in an 
important piece of business. The lawyer said that he would 
be glad to do so, and the stranger told him to be ready that 
evening to take a journey with him to the place where the 
business was to be carried out. 

Now this stranger was a wicked magician, and he really 
wanted the lawyer to become his assistant and help him in 
his black arts ; and he hoped to gain his services in the way 
that you will see. 

The lawyer prepared himself for a journey, and met the 
stranger, as he had arranged, at one of the gates of the city : 
there they found a couple of fine horses waiting for them, 
which they mounted, and they trotted out through flat, open 
country until about midnight, when they found themselves 
on the outskirts of a large city. 

In they rode until they came to the gate of a magnificent 
palace, where they tied up their horses and knocked at the 
door, which was opened to them at once by black servants ; 
and as they passed through the long corridors and waiting- 
rooms the lawyer noticed that everybody in the palace was as 

27 



28 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

black as coal ; and all that met the stranger seemed to know 
him well and to salute him with great respect and deference. 

At last they came to a great hall, bigger than any room 
you ever saw in your life. Hundreds of golden lamps hung 
from the ceiling, and thousands of candlesticks stood all about 
on the ground and on the tables, all with lighted candles in 
them : and at the far end of the hall was a very high golden 
throne studded with all kinds of precious stones, on which 
sat a black man but the very ugliest, foulest black man you 
could possibly imagine. Lower down, on each side of the 
throne, were smaller stools, on which other blacks were 
sitting. 

When the black man on the throne saw the stranger, he 
seemed greatly pleased, and made him welcome. " How do 
things go with you ? " he said. " Are you satisfied and find 
that you can do everything you want ? ' " Yes, Sire," said 
the stranger. " And for that reason I have come to pay my 
respects, and bow down before you, and worship you : and to 
thank you for all the great benefits I have received from you." 
" Good," said the black man. " And in the future you shall 
receive from me even handsomer gifts and greater power. 
Come and sit down near me here." 

Now the lawyer, much frightened at all he saw and at the 
black king and courtiers, had been standing behind the 
stranger : and when the stranger moved away to take the 
seat of honour which was offered him, the black king saw him, 
and turned to the stranger, asking : " Who is this that has 
come with you, my good friend ? ' " He is your servant, 
Sire," answered the stranger. So the black man turned to 



THE STORY OF THE FAITHFUL LAWYER 29 

the lawyer, and asked him : " Is that right, young sir ? Are 
vou mv servant ? ' 

j j 

But the lawyer gave him a very different answer from that 
which the black man expected, for he signed himself with the 
life-giving sign of the Cross, saying : " I am the servant of the 
Father, and the Son, and the Holv Ghost." No sooner had 

J 

the words left his lips than there was a terrific crash, as of 
thunder : the black man fell from his throne, and then the 
throne itself disappeared ; the lights w r ent out, and all the black 
courtiers vanished howling. The walls began to totter and 
crack : the earth rocked and then opened, swallowing down 
not only the hall and the palace, but the whole city : the 
stranger who had brought him thither was also no more to 
be seen, and at last the lawyer was left standing alone in 
a great waste without sound of human voice, and with 
nothing near him except the two horses standing at the place 
where they had been tied up. So you may guess that he did 
not waste any time looking for his companion, but jumped up 
on horseback and galloped back towards Constantinople, 
where he arrived just before daybreak. For some time he 
felt the effects of his frightening adventure, and he stayed 
much at home, giving thanks to God for his deliverance from 
his great danger, and going constantly to church and re- 
doubling his ardour in the performance of his religious duties. 
Now some time after all this had happened, the lawyer was 
employed by a rich and pious nobleman as his agent : he 
managed for him his many and splendid charities, and they 
would often go together to relieve the necessities of the poor 
and to perform other good works. 



30 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

One day, towards evening, tired with a long walk they had 
taken on an errand of mercy into the poor part of the town, 
they turned into the churchyard of St. Sophia, the great 
cathedral of Constantinople, and went up to the fountain on 
the east side of the church. This was enclosed under a roof, 
for it was much used by the faithful for washing before they 
entered the cathedral, and there was a fam9us picture 
of the Saviour there, renowned for many miracles that had 
been performed by it : it was even said that one day a wicked 
Jew, angry at the grace and edification which it had afforded 
to so many Christians, had plunged a sword into its side, and 
that blood had flowed out indeed, traces of it might still be 
seen on the picture. 

So thither they came, the lawyer and the nobleman, and 
before they sat down to rest, they both stood in prayer before 
the picture, each of them praying for God's favour and mercy. 
And then the nobleman saw a very strange thing, which at 
first frightened him greatly ; the eyes of the picture seemed 
to be looking straight at the lawyer. First of all, he thought 
it might be only an illusion due to the failing light, so on some 
excuse he asked the lawyer to move over to another part of 
the room : but the same thing happened, and still the Saviour's 
eyes seemed to be fixed steadfastly on his companion. 

Then the nobleman was greatly afraid, thinking that some 
sin he had committed was causing the Saviour's tender gaze 
to be turned away from himself ; and he fell upon his face, 
weeping and crying out : " O my Lord and Saviour, Thou 
alone knowest how I have done wrong ; yet, I beseech Thee, 
turn not Thy face away from my sins, but have mercy upon 



THE STORY OF THE FAITHFUL LAWYER 31 

me and look upon me once more. I know too well that I am 
a sinner, and wretched and defiled above all other men ; 
but Thy mercies are infinite, and I have no other God but 
Thee, my Saviour, who didst die for us sinful men, and 
desirest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should 
turn from his wdckedness and be saved." 

After many prayers and cryings of this sort the nobleman 
rose up from the ground, and began to wipe aw^ay the tears 
from his streaming cheeks and from his eyes : and when he 
dared once more to look upon the picture, to see if his prayers 
had been heard, he saw that its gaze was still fixed on the 
lawyer, and that on the face in the picture was a mild and 
cheerful expression, and it seemed to smile on the lawyer. 
And then he heard a grave, gentle voice that seemed to come 
from the picture, and it said : 

" Nobleman, thy charities shall be repaid thee an hundred- 
fold. Of all the riches that I have given thee thou hast 
given freely to the poor, clothed the naked, fed the hungry, 
visited the sick, taken in the orphans and widows, helped the 
prisoners and poor debtors, given rich offerings to My churches: 
and thou shalt be rewarded as is meet for all thy good works. 
But to this lawyer / am in debt / owe him thanks. How 
can that be, thou wilt ask ? In a time of great danger, 
affliction, and fear, he did not deny Me, but confessed that I 
was the Son of God God of a Virgin born ; wherefore I will 
confess him before My Father that is in heaven, and make 
him a reward meet for the confession of Me which he con- 
fessed." 

Just think how great and wonderful a thing was this : that 



32 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

the great God and ruler of all should say to a man, His poor 
slave and servant, that He was in debt to him, and owed him 
thanks, and would repay him a meet reward ! 

When these two good and pious men understood the 
purport of the divine voice, they were filled with great fear 
and joy : they fell on their faces, lifting up their hearts in 
thankfulness for the great reward in heaven which had been 
foretold to them. Then they returned home ; and from 
that day onward they persevered more abundantly yet in 
watchings, and prayers, and fastings, and attended more 
diligently than ever at public worship and in good deeds of 
charity : and so at last they attained to a ripe old age in the 
favour of God, until at last on the selfsame day they both 
departed to their eternal rest. 



THE STORY OF SAINT MENAS AND THE 

EGG 

From the Nubian 



The Story of Saint Men as and the Egg 



LONG, long ago, when Egypt was a Christian country, 
there were still a few people who had not been con- 
verted, but remained heathens and believed in their 
own false gods. One of these was a woman who lived near 
the great city of Alexandria : she had every thing in the world, 
except one, to make her happy ; a good husband, no lack of 
money, fine health, a well-stocked farm, plenty of servants, 
women and men too : but that one thing spoilt everything 
for her ; and it was that she had no child. What was more, 
everything to do with her seemed to suffer from the same 
complaint : the maidservants who were married to the men- 
servants had no children, the cows no calves, the sheep no 
lambs, the goats no kids, the cats no kittens ; even the fowls 
would not lay any eggs. 

Now the woman was a good woman as far as her heathen 
faith would let her be : and from her house, which was not 
far from the river, she used to see the people going up to 
worship and praise in the great church of St. Menas, which 
was in the desert on the other side of the river. She had heard 
of St. Menas, who years before had died for his religion in 
Egypt, though he was born a Greek, and she had heard of the 
many miracles that God had done at his shrine ; and although 
she was not a Christian, she could not help half believing in 
some of the stories about him and his power which her 
neighbours had told her ; and one day, when she was thinking 

35 



36 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

about her great grief, and how nothing about her house would 
increase and multiply, she said : " If only one of my hens 
would lay, I promise that I will send the first egg over to 
St. Menas' church." 

Well, so it came about : to her great joy one of her fowls 
laid an egg ; so she took a maid with her and went down to 
the river to go across and leave the egg for the Saint at his 
shrine. She was just getting into the boat when she began to 
talk to the ferryman. " Good day," said he. " Good day," 
said she. " Where can I take you to ? " he said. " Up the 
river and across," she answered, " to the landing-place for 
St. Menas' church." " But why should you want to go there ? ' : 
said the ferryman ; " you are not a Christian." So she told 
him all about the egg which her fowl had laid, and how she 
was going to take it to the church : and she hoped that if she 
offered up this egg at the Saint's shrine, perhaps some of her 
other animals might have children, and then perhaps her 
servants, and last of all perhaps herself ; and if that should 
happen, she would surely become a Christian too. " But 
don't you trouble to go across yourself," said the ferryman. 
" It is a long journey, and you don't look strong, and your 
husband will be wondering what you are about. Give me the 
egg ; I am going across very soon, and I will take it to the church 
for you, and put it in the shrine." So she gave him the egg, 
and went home : and he took it down and put it in a safe 
place in the hold of the boat where it would not get broken 
and then I am sorry to say he forgot all about it. 

Three or four days afterwards the ferryman was sailing 
his boat in mid-stream, and went down into the hold to fetch 



SAINT MEN AS AND THE EGG 37 

a rope, and there he came across the egg. " What is this egg 
doing here ? " he said to his son, who was on board with him. 
" Don't you remember, father ? ' ' said the boy. " That is 
the egg you said you would take to St. Menas' church for the 
woman who lives the other side of the river." But the ferry- 
man was hungry ; it was long since he had had his breakfast, 
and the sight of the pretty little white egg was too much for 
him ; and instead of performing his trust he told his son to 
cook it for him : and he ate it, and very good he found it ; 
and he thought no more of the poor woman and the promise 
he had made to her. 

Now about three months later the ferryman, after plying 
his trade up and down the river, came back to his own village : 
and when it was Sunday, he went to the church it was St. 
Mary's church, the dear Virgin's church, in his village and 
he meant to take the Holy Sacrament during the service. But 
just after the priest and the choir had sung the great hymn, 
" Holy, Holy, Holy," the ferryman saw a dreadful sight : in 
front of him, charging straight at him, came St. Menas, in full 
armour, mounted on a white horse ; and he held a spear of 
fiame, which he pointed full at the ferryman's breast. The 
poor man remembered all of a sudden the wrong he had done, 
and rushed to the picture of St. Mary on the screen of the 
church in front of the chancel, crying : " Save me, save me, 
dear Mother of God : I have done very wrong, I have sinned 
greatly." But St. Menas came nearer and nearer, and soon 
he stood above the ferryman's head, and frowned and looked 
sternly upon him, saying : " What shall I do to you ? If it 
were not for my Mistress, the dear Mother of God, I would 



38 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

be the end of you altogether." And as he stretched out his 
hand above the ferryman's head, the egg inside him seemed to 
begin to swell and move ; he felt a rending, tearing feeling ; 
he seemed to be split open in agony, and out of him came a 
live fowl, about as big as a chicken of three months would be ; 
and it jumped to the ground, and stood up, and crowed as 
loud as ever it could, " Cock-a-doodle-doo." 

Then St. Menas, still on his white horse, stooped down and 
picked up the fowl, and rode off out of the church, while all 
the people there stood amazed or sang his praises ; and he 
rode on and on, down and over the wide river, until he came 
to the woman's door, and there he called out her name ; and 
when she came running out, he handed her the fowl, and said : 
" Woman, take this fowl and let it run about with the others 
in your farmyard : and then your cattle too will have little 
ones, and your maidservants, and last of all you too ; and 
when that happens see that you have your child baptized and 
call him Menas after me, and be baptized yourself at the same 



time.' 



When he had said this he disappeared in a flash of glory : 
and the woman took the fowl and put it in her farmyard. The 
very next day all her hens began to lay eggs ; and soon her 
cats had kittens, her goats had kids, her sheep had lambs, and 
her cows had calves ; and then her maidservants began to 
have bonny children, and last of all she herself had a baby 
boy. So she went, she and her husband, and took him to 
St. Menas' church: and there the priest baptized him, calling 
him Menas after the Saint, and baptized her and her husband 
as well : and ever after that they lived in all happiness, 



SAINT MENAS AND THE EGG 39 

going often to service at the church and taking their little 
son with them, and making many rich presents at the Saint's 
shrine ; and the story became known through all the country 
round about, and all the people praised St. Menas and hon- 
oured him, because he had been found worthy that God 
should do such great miracles through him : and as for the 
ferryman, because he had flown to the protection of our Lady, 
the glorious Virgin, he recovered again ; but he was long ill 
and weak from the wound where the fowl had burst out, and 
never again was he forgetful or broke a promise or failed to 
fulfil a charge entrusted to him. 



THE REWARD OF CHARITY 

From the Latin 



The Reward of Chanty 



JUST outside the city of Nisibis there once lived a poor 
man and his wife ; she was a Christian he, though a 
good man, still a heathen ; and all the money they had 
was a little stock of fifty crowns. 

One day the man said to his wife : " Let us spend all our 
fifty crowns at once, and just for this one time enjoy our- 
selves eat, drink, and be merry. It is of no use spending 
them one by one, getting no real enjoyment from them, and 
being only paupers still at the end." " Very good," said his 
wife : " but a better plan is to invest them and get a good 
return : invest them with the God of the Christians." 
" Where is He ? " answered her husband. " If you will show 
Him to me, I will invest them with Him as you suggest." 
" I will show Him to you," answered the wife. " And I am 
willing to assure you that if you invest them with Him, not 
only will you not lose them, but He will give you good 
interest and double your capital." " Good," said the man. 
" Let us go and find Him." 

Now in the city of Nisibis was a great church with fine 
doors, and thither the woman took her husband : and out- 
side the greatest door was a kind of gallery covered in, where 
many beggars sat : she pointed them out to him, and said : 
" If you give the money to these beggars, it is investing it with 
the God of the Christians." So he distributed among them 
the whole fifty crowns, and home again they went rejoicing. 

43 



44 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

Now when three months had passed, the man and his wife 
were reduced to the utmost straits of poverty ; they had 
nothing to eat, and no money at all left with which to buy 
food. So the man said to his wife : " Will not the God of 
the Christians let us have some of that money which we 
invested with Him, or we must needs die ? ' " Yes," said 
she. " Go to the place where you paid it in, and I am sure 
that you will receive it promptly." So he went back to the 
church and looked all round it most carefully, hoping to 
find somebody who would render him his account and pay 
him his money : but he could see nobody except the beggars, 
who were still begging, and he was very sorrowful and anxious, 
and thought that his journey to the church was going to be 
without result. 

Just as he was taking a last look round before starting for 
home, he saw lying at his feet on the ground one of the 
crowns which he had given to the beggars when he was there 
before: so he picked it up and went home. When he had 
arrived there, he shewed it to his wife, and said to her : " I 
went to your church, and I could not see the God of the 
Christians anywhere, and I could not find anybody to render 
me my account : all I found was this crown, lying just at 
the place where I gave away the fifty crowns before." " This 
is clearly the handiwork of my God," said the woman. " He 
is invisible and works invisibly, and this is His gift to you. 
You had better go and buy with it something for us to eat, 
and He will give us more presently on some other occasion." 

The man went to the shop, and there he spent his crown 
on some bread, some wine, and a fish : the fish he handed 



THE REWARD OE CHARITY 45 

over to his wife to cook. She began in the usual way to cut 
it open so as to clean it before putting it into the pan, and there 
in the middle of its body she found a precious stone, so lovely 
that she was quite dazzled with its beauty ; and when they 
sat down to have their dinner, she told him what she had 
found, and he too was delighted at the pretty thing. Neither 
of them knew its value, for they were but simple people ; but 
he said to her: " Give me the stone when I go out this after- 
noon ; I may find somebody who would care to buy it." 

So when he next went out that afternoon, he took the stone 
with him and went to the shop of an old man who \vas a 
jeweller and a money-changer, and showed him the stone. 

" What would you care to give me for this pretty stone ? ' 
said he. 

" How much do you want ? " said the jew r eller. 

" Oh, you can give me what you like," said the man. 

" I'll give you five crowns," said the jeweller. 

" What, all that ? " said the man, who was really astonished 
at the idea of getting so much for something that he thought 
was no more valuable than a piece of glass, and feared that 
the jeweller was only joking ; but the jeweller thought that 
he was speaking sarcastically, and offered him ten. The man 
still thought he was joking, and said nothing : so the jeweller 
offered him twenty ; again he returned no answer, and the 
jeweller went up to thirty, and forty, and fifty crowns : and 
while he was swearing and vowing to him that he w r ould really 
pay the money, the man came to his senses, and argued with 
himself that no jeweller would offer fifty crowns for a stone 
unless it was really valuable ; and he went on putting up the 



46 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

price and by bargaining they finally arrived at an agreement 
that the jeweller should give him three hundred crowns for 
it ; and these he took and went home to his wife with great 



" Well, husband," said she, seeing him thus rejoicing, 
" for how much were you able to sell the stone ? ' She hoped 
that he had perhaps been able to get ten or twenty pence for 
it : and you may imagine her amazement and delight when he 
pulled out the three hundred crowns and said : " Look, this 
is what I got for it." Then she greatly wondered at the good- 
ness of God, and said to her husband : " You see then, 
husband, how good and generous is the God of the Christians. 
Not only has He given you back with interest the fifty crowns 
which you lent to Him, but in this short time He has in- 
creased your capital sixfold ; by this you may know that 
there is no other God in heaven or in earth save Him alone." 

For a short time he was silent after hearing these words of 
his wife ; but then, when he thought again of this great 
miracle that had been done for him, he could not but acknow- 
ledge the truth, and he pronounced that he was converted 
and would become a Christian ; and all his neighbours came 
to his house, greatly rejoicing at the good news of the worthy 
couple's fortune and of the husband's turning to the true 
faith ; and he was baptized as soon as might be, and lived 
with his wife a happy, good, and Christian life until extreme 
old age came to them both. God do the same for us ! Amen. 



THE STORY OF DOROTHEOS AND 

THEOPISTE 

From the Coptic 



The Story of Dorotheas and Theopiste 



IN a certain city of Egypt there lived a man named 
Dorotheos, and his wife was called Theopiste. They 
had all that could make life happy and pleasant they 
were young and rich, for their parents had left them much 
wealth both in money and possessions : nay, they were as 
good as they were happy ; they were accustomed to give 
freely of their substance to the poor, and they had a great 
devotion to the Archangel Michael, in whose name they made 
all their largesse. In Egypt this great Archangel is com- 
memorated on the twelfth day of each month : and on each 
eleventh day they made great preparations, sending rich gifts 
to St. Michael's Church, and busying themselves with killing 
and dressing sheep to make dinners for the poor ; and on the 
twelfth day they would receive the life-giving mysteries of 
the Sacrament, and then they would gather together the poor, 
the blind, the deaf, the lame, orphans and widows, and any 
strangers that were in the town, and would set before them a 
banquet, and would wait upon them with their own hands. 
And their good fame for this their charity went abroad through 
the whole length of the land of Egypt. 

Now after they had continued to do this for a long season, 
the children of men, and especially the people of Egypt, 
sinned grievously against the Lord : and He commanded 
the heavens to pour no rain upon the earth for three years : 
and the waters of the Nile did not rise, to bring fertility upon 

E 49 



50 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

the country : and both men and cattle began to fail and 
perish. Dorotheos and Theopiste did not cease from their 
alms and charity, although they too suffered grievously from 
the drought ; their cattle died, and at last they, who had 
owned flocks on every hill, found themselves the masters but 
of one single sheep. The eleventh day of the month Paopi 
came round, and Dorotheos said to his wife : " To-morrow, 
as you w 7 ell know, is the festival of St. Michael. Let us send 
what gifts we can to the church, and take the sheep and kill 
it and dress it, so that we may make ready for the festival." 
Theopiste was full of joy at his words, and answered : " I too 
have had this in my mind ever since yesterday, but I dared 
not speak to you of it, for I know the straits to which you 
are reduced. But how glad I am that you are going to do 
according to your custom, and that you have not forgotten 
the gift of God ! ' So the next day they did as they were 
used, and they had nothing at all left except a little oil and a 
little wine, and no good clothes except those in which they 
were wont to go to receive the Sacrament. And when they 
were at the church they prayed God to help their stricken 
land, and they asked St. Michael to implore God to shew 
mercy upon them and all the people of Egypt : and they 
continued instantly in prayer for the whole of the coming 
month. 

When they had come to the eleventh day of the next 
month, Hathor, they were in still greater anxiety and trouble, 
for the next day was St. Michael's greatest festival in the year, 
and they knew not how to celebrate it. " What have we left, 
my sister in the Lord ? ' said Dorotheos. " Perchance it 



DOROTHEOS AND THEOPISTE 51 

may suffice for our need." " Little enough," she returned ; 
" we have a little bread which we can set before the brethren, 
and a little oil, but neither wheat nor flour." " Well," said 
Dorotheos, " each of us has our festal apparel : I will sell 
mine first, to buy flour ; and to-morrow I will sell yours to buy 
a sheep withal, that we may feed the poor according to our 



wont.' 



Dorotheos performed the first part of what he had pur- 
posed, and bought the corn, and when it was early the next 
morning his wife offered him her garment and told him to go 
to buy the sheep. But he answered: " If I take your gar- 
ments, how can you go with me to the church to receive the 
Blessing of the Eucharist ? I, a man, can go where I like in 
any poor rags, but a woman must not go unveiled before the 
congregation." At this she wept bitterly, thinking that she 
was like to be deprived of the Holy Things : but Dorotheos 
comforted her, saying : " Give me the garment and let me 
try what I can do. Perhaps God will send us a sheep to make 
ready for the brethren." Now he hoped that he might be 
able to use the garment as a pledge, and get the sheep, and 
that his wife might be allowed to keep the garment until after 
the service. And while he was away Theopiste busied herself 
with getting ready the table for the poor, making bread from 
the corn which her husband had bought, and with the little 
oil which remained to them. 

Dorotheos went out and presently met a shepherd. "' I 
want to buy a sheep," said he. " How much will you give ? ' 
said the shepherd. " One-third of a gold piece," said Doro- 
theos. " Very good," said the shepherd. " Give me the money, 



52 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

and you shall have the sheep." Dorotheos handed him his 
wife's robe. " Will you take this as a pledge ? ' he said. 
" Keep it for three days, and if by the end of that time I have 
not brought you the money, you may keep it." " What is the 
good of a silken garment to me ? " said the shepherd. " No- 
body in my house wears anything but wool." And he turned 
away, leaving Dorotheos ashamed and weeping. 

Now as he went mournfully home, he saw a great man 
coming riding upon a white horse, attended by a large 
retinue : he looked like one of the royal governors, and he 
was really the Archangel Michael, though of course Doro- 
theos did not know him in his disguise : and they met near 
the door of Dorotheos' house. The governor drew bridle 
and saluted him. " Hail, Dorotheos," said he. " Good and 
peaceful man, where are you going, and why do you carry a 
woman's robe in your hands ? ' Dorotheos did not at first 
answer his question, but returned him a compliment. " Is 
not Theopiste alive ? " enquired the governor. " Yes, to do 
you service," answered Dorotheos : and at last he was com- 
pelled to admit what he had been about how he had tried 
to buy a sheep with the robe, but had failed. 

" Look you," said the governor, " if I undertake to get you 
a sheep, will you receive me and my retinue in your house to- 
day ? ' " Yes," said Dorotheos, " and I shall be greatly 
honoured by your coming." So the governor called to one 
of his attendant angels (they were with him in the form of 
soldiers), and bade him go again with Dorotheos to the shep- 
herd, and say : " The governor who lately passed by you in 
the street wants a sheep worth one-third of a gold piece, and 



DOROTHEOS AND THEOPISTE 53 

undertakes to send you the money before midday." And they 
went together and brought the sheep. " Now," said the 
governor, " you have the sheep for the entertainment of my 
people : for myself, I should like a fish. Do you think you can 
get me one ? ' " Yes," said Dorotheos : " I will pledge this 
garment and get it." But the governor called to another of the 
seeming soldiers, and bade him go with Dorotheos to the 
market and there buy a fine large fish of the value of one-third 
of a gold piece, again pledging that the money should be sent 
by noon. " Is that all ? " said the governor. " Have you now 
everything you want ? ' " Yes," said Dorotheos. " Very 
well," said the governor. " Then let us enter your house." 
So they took up everything and went in : but all the time 
Dorotheos was thinking within himself : " Where shall I get 
the money to pay for the sheep and the fish ? And I shall 
want more fine bread for the governor to eat, wine for the 
governor to drink, soft cushions for the governor to lie on : ' 
and he was very unhappy ; and he prayed in his heart : " Holy 
Archangel Michael, help me this day : thou knowest that I 
am thy servant and that I have done all for thee and for the 
Lord Christ : so help me." St. Michael of course in the 
guise of the governor, knew what was passing in his heart, 
but he said nothing to him for the time. 

When they had arrived at the house of Dorotheos, Michael 
knocked at the door, and Theopiste came out. " Peace be 
with you," said Michael. " How do you in these hard days ? ' 
" Peace to you, O governor," said Theopiste. " It is God 
and His Holy Archangel Michael who have brought you to us 
to-day. Come in and refresh yourself with such little enter- 



54 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

tainment as we can provide for you." So they all came in, 
and then she saw the sheep and the fish, and asked her husband 
how he had come by them, seeing that he had not parted with 
her garment ; and he explained how the governor had 
pledged himself for them, whereat she was overjoyed, and 
praised the Almighty and the Archangel for the help they 
had given. And the governor said: " Now it is time for me 
to make ready to go to the church, for to-day is the day of 
the Archangel Michael, and I would fain be present at the 
Offering : do you, while I am away, kill the sheep ; but let 
nobody touch the fish until I come back." And so he departed. 
But the anxieties of Dorotheos were not yet at an end. 
" Where shall I get fine bread," he said to his wife, " for the 
governor's use, and cushions for him to sit upon ? ' " God 
has not forsaken us so far," said Theopiste, " and doubtless He 
will provide. Meanwhile let us go to the cellar, and see if the 
little wine we have left is fit for the governor to drink." So 
Dorotheos went to the cellar, in which there had been left 
only one jar with a little wine in it : but when he opened the 
door he found it was filled with jars, and kegs, and casks to 
the very brim. He went back to his wife and asked if anybody 
had brought in wine during the night. " No," she replied. 
" Indeed, when I went yesterday to get a little wine to send 
to the church for the Offering, there was but a very small 
amount left at the bottom of a single jar." Then they went 
to the place where they had left their oil, and there they found 
seven jars filled with fine oil to the top : and in the larder 
they found everything that they could want for the house 
butter and cheese, and honey, and vinegar, and bread, and 



DOROTHEOS AND THEOPISTE 55 

all kinds of household stuff ; and when they went to their 
bedchamber, they found a chest filled with all manner of 
raiment, and it was better and finer than that which they 
had W'orn before, even on the day of their wedding. Then 
they knew that a great act of grace had been done for them, 
and they glorified God, the God of Michael : and Dorotheos 
said : " God hath provided all things ; now that we have 
made all ready, and that we have this fitting attire, let 
us go forth, for the hour of the Offering is come." So they 
went to the church, and long and earnestly they gave thanks unto 
God before the great picture of the holy Archangel Michael ; 
and they received the Mysteries and left the church, and they 
did not forget to invite the poor to go home with them to 
share in their new-found abundance. And Dorotheos and 
Theopiste themselves waited upon the poor brethren, and all 
were happy and joyful together. 

Now while all were feasting, the governor, that was really 
Michael, came with his soldiers and knocked at the door, and 
entered. And he pretended to be greatly astonished when he 
saw the place full of men and women. " What is this ? " he 
asked. " This were well enough in times of abundance, but 
can ye now so behave ? Have ye not bethought yourselves 
that these are times of affliction ? ' " Forgive us, my lord," 
answered the good pair. " There is' no stranger among all 
whom you see here all are kinsmen of ours in God, and it is 
to render thanks unto God and unto his Archangel Michael 
that we give to-day this entertainment." 

So the -governor went and sat down in his place ; and he 
said to Dorotheos : " Bring me the fish " : and they brought 



56 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

it, and he said : " Cut open his belly " : and they did so. 
And he said : " Take out his maw " : and they did, and it 
was very large. " What is this, my lord ? " said Dorotheos. 
" Open it," said the governor : and he did so, and in it he 
found a bundle sealed with seals. And he was greatly sur- 
prised : and the governor said : " Big fish like this swallow 
everything that they meet in the water. But open the packet 
and see what is inside." But Dorotheos would not break the 
seals, so the governor did so himself, and inside was fine, new- 
minted money to the value of three hundred gold pieces : there 
were two hundred and ninety-nine whole gold pieces and three 
smaller pieces to the value of one-third of a gold piece each. 
And Dorotheos and Theopiste and all the people were amazed. 
" Come hither, my beloved people," said the governor, 
" and let me speak with you. You are people of charity and 
generous, and God has sent you this money under His own 
seal. Take first these three smaller pieces, and give one to the 
shepherd, and one to the man who sold the fish, and one to 
the man from whom you yesterday bought the corn ; and all 
the rest are for you yourselves." " Not so," said Dorotheos 
and Theopiste : " we cannot take this money from you : all 
men are bound to entertain the servants of the king, and we 
have given you nothing except a little food. If you will, we 
will take the three small pieces to pay for the sheep and the 
fish, and to redeem the garment we left yesterday in pledge 
for the corn : but the rest we cannot take." " Yes," said the 
governor, " it is money owed to you with its interest, and you 
must take it." " Now you are mocking us," said the good 
pair. " Never did we see your face before to-day, so how 



DOROTHEOS AND THEOPISTE 57 

can we ever have lent anything to you ? ' "I will tell you," 
said the governor. " I came first into your house soon after 
your parents died, leaving you much happiness and money : 
and since then I have come into your house once every month, 
and you have always sent me great and rich gifts, of \vhich 
those three hundred gold pieces are but the beginning of 
repayment." " My lord," they answered, " we beseech you 
to tell us who you are and what is your name." And this is 
how the seeming governor answered: 

" Well, I will tell you my name and who I am. I am 
Michael, the governor of the dwellers in heaven and of the 
peoples of the earth. I am Michael, general of the heavenly 
host. I am Michael, ruler of the worlds of light. I am 
Michael, that put to flight all enemies before the face of the 
king. I am Michael, the channel of the mercies of God. I 
am Michael, the steward of the kingdom of heaven. I am 
Michael, that bring in the gifts of men unto God my king. 
I am Michael, that walk with men whose hope is in the Lord. 
I am Michael the Archangel, who minister unto all upright 
people. I have ministered to you from your youth up to 
this day, and I will never cease to minister to you until I have 
brought you to Christ, my eternal King. Inasmuch as ye 
have ministered unto my God and unto me with all your 
power, never will I forget nor put away your offerings and 
charities which ye did unto God in my name. Did I not 
stand in the midst of you yesterday w r hen you spoke to one 
another about your accustomed gifts for the festival ? Did 
I not hear you say, weeping, ' Now may God take us away 
altogether from this world, since the hope of our accustomed 



58 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

charity is gone from us ? ' Did I not see you when you 
brought forth your garments, those fair garments in which 
ye were wont to receive the Offering, in order that ye might 
sell them and have to give to the poor in my name ? All those 
times was I present with you, and always will I be with you, 
and I will not forget your gifts, but will present them before 
my God and King : and your offerings will be acceptable 
unto Him like the offerings of righteous Abel, and Noah, and 
Abraham, because ye gave them in uprightness. Blessed are 
ye, and as are your names, so shall your blessing be, for 
Dorotheos, being interpreted, is ' The Gift of God,' and 
Theopiste, being interpreted, is ' Belief in God.' 

When he had thus spoken, he handed over all the money to 
them, and blessed them, leaving with them the Peace of God : 
and then he became the Archangel indeed, very beautiful 
and very bright, and all his soldiers became attendant angels, 
and they went straight away up to heaven, leaving the com- 
pany of mortals full of fear and joy. 

And Dorotheos and Theopiste did as the holy Archangel 
had commanded them : they finished the festival with joy, 
and ate and drank, and glorified God : and soon after the 
drought ceased, and they became rich and prosperous once 
more, all from the money which Michael had left to them : 
and they never ceased from their observing of the festivals 
of Michael, and their charities to the poor in his name, and 
from the service of God, until they ended their life in a happy 
old age, and then they saw their benefactor before the 
Throne in heaven. May God give us all power to act like 
them, and may Michael help us so to do ! Amen. 



THE LITTLE PRIESTS 

From the Latin 



The Little Priests 



ON the farther side of Syria there was an ancient 
Christian city called Gonagon : and the people 
who lived there were farmers and herdsmen, who 
earned their livelihood by pasturing beasts, making butter 
and cheese of the milk of their cows, goats, and sheep, and 
selling them in the neighbouring cities. 

There were once some boys looking after herds on a hill 
about a mile from the town ; and as the care of such animals 
does not take up the w r hole day, they would often invent 
games and little plays for themselves to pass the time. You 
shall hear what happened to the game which they played one 
fine day. 

They had acted all sorts of parts, when one of them said : 
" Let us play at offering the Eucharist, as they do in church " : 
so they chose one of their number to be the Priest and two 
more to be Deacons ; and they found a great flat stone, in 
shape not unlike an Altar, and put a little piece of their bread 
on it, and a little of the wine from their drinking-bottles in a 
shallow earthenware cup. Then the little Priest stood before 
the Altar, and the two little Deacons a step or two behind, 
one on each side of him, just as they had seen done in church : 
and because they were good boys, and had always listened 
carefully to the service every Sunday, and some of them had 
even sung in the choir and helped as acolytes in the sacred 
ministry of the Altar, they were able to remember most of the 

6 1 



62 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

service and of the prayers, and the Eucharist went on very 
much as it did in church. 

Now just before the little Priest was about to break the 
bread, before the Divine words were said over the bread and 
wine, there was suddenly a terrific clap of thunder from the 
cloudless sky ; and a flash of fire came down from heaven and 
utterly consumed all that was on the Altar nay, it even 
destroyed the very Altar itself: and in fear and terror 
all the boys fell flat on their faces on the ground ; they 
could speak no word, and lay there as still and as silent as 
the dead. 

Towards evening their parents began to grow anxious about 
them, because they had not come back to the city at the usual 
hour when they were expected : and they at last went out to 
look for them ; and there they found them on the hillside, 
all stretched out and motionless as if they were dead. And 
when they saw them they wept and lamented, thinking that 
their dear children had perished : but as they saw no sign of 
violence upon them, they picked them up, and each father 
carried his own son back to his house, and did his best to tend 
him and bring him back to life. 

All the rest of that day and all the night they still remained 
motionless : but when the next day dawned they began to 
awake a little, and presently they recovered more and more ; 
and then they told their parents exactly what had happened 
how they had held the service, and how the fire had come down 
from heaven and consumed the bread and wine and struck 
them all to the ground : and when they were better still, they 
took their parents out to the place where the great Altar stone 



THE LITTLE PRIESTS 63 

had been, and showed them that it was gone, and the mark on 
the ground that the flash had left. 

Now the ruler over the city of Gonagon was a great and 
holy Bishop, and soon people went to him and told him the 
whole story : and first he went out with his clergy to the hill- 
side to see the place where the wonder had occurred, and then 
he sent for the boys and bade them tell him the whole matter 
from beginning to end ; and they did so frankly and freely in 
their simple language, and he saw that they were telling him 
the truth : and inspired by the Divine wisdom, he placed 
them all in a monastery that was near : and meanwhile he 
built a great church on the hillside, with its Altar exactly over 
the spot where the destroyed Altar stone had been : and when 
the boys had grown old enough he cut their hair and gave 
them the clergy's habit, and made them monks and priests : 
and so they served God all the days of their life, some in the 
ancient city of Gonagon, and some going out into the world 
to convert the heathen to the knowledge of Christ ; to whose 
kingdom may we all, like them, come in the end ! Amen. 



TAKLA HAYMANOT AND THE TREE 

DEVIL 

From the Ethiopic 



Takla Haymanot and the Tree Devil 



IN Ethiopia, the country that people now call Abyssinia, 
there was an ancient family only less famous than that 
of the king, and from it sprang the great Saint of whom 
this story tells. His distant ancestors were the Levites who 
ministered in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness : in later 
days the same family were responsible for bringing the people 
of Ethiopia to the Jewish faith ; and later still other mem- 
bers of it converted the Ethiopians to our true religion. You 
may see the antiquity of his descent when you know that 
they inherited some of the land that Joshua had set apart 
for the Levites, that they had been priests of the Law of 
Moses in Ethiopia for a thousand years, and priests of the Law 
of Christ there for five hundred more. The Saint's birth was 
wonderful, for his mother was saved by the intervention of 
St. Michael from the violence of a heathen king who wished 
to marry her : and the same Archangel told his mother and 
father that they would have a child who would be the chosen 
of the Lord. After he was born, he grew so quickly in wisdom 
and in the fear of God that he was made a deacon when he was 
only fifteen years old : he soon sold all his goods and belong- 
ings (for his family were wealthy people) and devoted 
himself finally to converting to Christianity the outlying 
peoples of Ethiopia, who were still heathens : he was 
appointed High Priest of Shoa by his Bishop, and confirmed 
in the priesthood by Christ Himself, who appeared to him 

67 



68 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

and bestowed the Holy Ghost upon him by breathing thrice 
upon his forehead. But I want to tell you of one of his 
missionary adventures how he converted the people of the 
country of Katata. 

He had heard with great grief that the people of this 
country, which was a distant part of Shoa, were idolaters, 
worshipping idols, and trees, and stones ; and magicians too, 
taking divinations by water and by fire, and by the flight of 
birds. So he hurried across the great river which separated 
Katata from the rest of Shoa, and took up his abode in the 
town, and there began to teach the true faith. The idolaters 
were stubborn and angry, and would have laid violent hands 
on Takla Haymanot ; but he reasoned gently with them, 
asking them what they worshipped. 

" A great tree," said one. 

" Well," said the Saint, " what happens when you bow 
down before it ? ' 

" A voice comes out of the tree," was the answer, " which 
says, ' I am your god, that created you.' 

" Will you take me to it to-morrow ? ' said the Saint : 
and the people gladly consented, because they thought that 
he would bow down to it with them, now that he knew of 
its wonderful power. 

So the next day they all went, a great crowd with the 
Saint in their midst, towards the tree : and when they were 
still some way off, the devil in the tree I dare say you have 
guessed the reason of the voice that came from it called 
out to the people that they were not to bring the stranger 
too close to it : so he stopped behind on the road, while the 



TAKLA HAYMANOT AND THE TREE 69 

men of Katata went on close towards their tree. Then 
Takla Haymanot, being left alone, prayed a mighty prayer. 
" See, O God," he cried, " the cunning and craft of Satan, 
the deceiver of Thy creation ! Let me now be the instrument 
of his confusion : send Thy servant Michael to help me ; 
drive out this devil but not before his lasting shame has been 
made public before all the people he deluded. Meanwhile, 
let the tree be plucked up by the roots and come here to me, 
fulfilling the saying in the Gospel that they who have faith 
as a grain of mustard seed may bid a sycamine tree be plucked 
up by the roots, and it shall obey them." And then, his 
prayer ended, he turned in the direction of the tree, and 
adjured it thus: " Unto thee do I speak, O thou tree, from 
whose top the spirit of Satan speaks and leads away the 
multitude : in the name of the Lord Christ whom I worship, 
be thou torn up by thy roots and come hither, so that all the 
people may see the power of my God." And then, just as all 
the people were preparing to make their acts of worship 
beneath it, the tree came up and began to move in the 
direction of the holy man : there was a noise like the most 
deafening thunder, and this and the blows from the rootc 
of the tree, as it walked, filled the people with an overwhelm- 
ing terror, and twenty-four of them died from fear. 

When the tree had come near Takla Haymanot, the devil 
in it began to abuse him shrilly, cursing him for disturbing 
him in this place where he had found rest, and striving to 
snatch away the tree from his power : then in a Hash of fire 
down came Saint Michael from Heaven, invisible to all save 
the devil and the Saint, and caught the devil by the throat, 



70 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

and choked him soundly, until he howled and cried for pain, 
and promised, if he were only let go, to leave the place for ever 
and trouble the people no more. 

St. Michael was half inclined to accept this offer, but 
Takla Haymanot would have none of it : " He is the Deceiver 
and the Father of Lies," said he, " and before he is allowed 
to go he must openly confess his deceit. His disgrace must be 
shown to all, and he must say aloud to the people of the city : 
' In times of old it was I who deceived you : from this time 
onward you must worship Christ, with His Father and the 
Holy Ghost.' Then he can go." "No," said the devil, 
" that is impossible, and you know it : I cannot pronounce 
those names." " Very well," said Takla Haymanot : " then 
instead of the names of the Trinity, you must say : ' The God 
of heaven and of earth, the God who created me and created 
you, Him you shall worship and serve.' So the devil made 
the confession of his deceit, and whined a good deal about it. 
" Where shall I go next ? " he said. " The Twelve in Galilee 
started the hunt, and then their Two-and-Seventy followers : 
they have chased me out of Jerusalem, and Rome, and Egypt ; 
and I thought that my throne was safe here in Shoa, and now 
here I am beaten again. I can see nothing for it but to depart 
into some desert place utterly uninhabited by man, and 
meditate therein." As he finished speaking, Saint Michael 
loosed his hold on his throat, and the devil took the form of a 
tremendous puff of smoke, and vanished away into thin air ; and 
Saint Michael, still unseen of the people, encouraged Takla Hay- 
manot, and bade him farewell, and himself ascended to heaven. 

The people of Katata were by this time almost ready to 



TAKLA HAYMANOT AND THE TREE 71 

receive the Word of Life : but yet another miracle was 
vouchsafed to them to establish their faith. At the prayer 
of Takla Haymanot the twenty-four men who had died from 
fear when the tree walked were restored to life. They 
described how when they had died the angels of darkness 
had seized their souls from their bodies and were carrying 
them off quickly, saying : " Let us take these men who have 
denied their Creator and worship idols, and plunge them into 
everlasting fire " : but while they were thus speaking, said 
the dead, " we saw you come mounted on a chariot of fire, and 
strive with the angels of darkness on our behalf : and during 
the combat Saint Michael the Archangel came, and said to the 
angels of darkness, ' Give these souls to this man,' and at his 
voice they released us, and we went back to our bodies, and 
you raised us up, and here we are before you." And they asked 
Takla Haymanot to instruct them and to baptize them, that 
they might not have to return to that place of torment ; and 
so he did, and many of their fellow-citizens with them, so 
that on that day he baptized twelve thousand and three souls, 
and on the morrow he baptized six hundred thousand and 
fifty-nine all the people of Katata. 

Except one: and let me tell you what happened to him. 
This man was the governor, and money was at the root of his 
obstinacy ; he had been accustomed to tax all the people 
who came to worship the tree, and he little liked losing the 
three hundred pounds of silver that he took yearly from them. 
The next day Takla Haymanot went to where the tree was 
still standing after its devil had disappeared, and ordered it 
to lie down : and lie down it did. Then the Saint was just 



72 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

telling the people to get axes and chop it up, so that it might 
serve to build a church, when the governor came and began 
to load Takla Haymanot and his new followers with abuse. 
Takla Haymanot said nothing, but bade his men go on 
chopping : and just as the governor's railing became most 
foul, and he threatened the Saint with violence, a splinter 
from the tree flew up and struck him in the eye. Then he 
fell down on the ground, and because of the intensity of the 
pain that came upon him, he became like a pig, and tried to 
choke himself with his own hand, and would rather have died 
than live. He called upon the devil his protector, but the 
devil could only answer from afar off : " You had better 
leave the city to this man ; I cannot help you, for I could 
not even save myself, and you will see me and hear of me no 
more." Then the governor turned to Takla Haymanot and 
implored his help, saying that he believed and would himself 
be baptized a Christian ; and the people interceded for him, 
and Takla Haymanot touched his eye and healed it, and the 
governor show r ed the strength of his repentance by himself 
taking an axe and finishing the cutting down of the tree ; and 
a very pretty little church they made of the wood of it. 

This is only one of many hundreds of miracles which the 
great man Takla Haymanot did : and when he had converted 
all the outlying countries of Ethiopia to the faith and had 
confirmed them in it, he left the world altogether, and spent 
the many later years of his long life in a monastery, chastising 
his body with many austerities ; and at last he died of the 
plague, aged ninety-nine years and eight months. God send 
us many like him ! 



SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE 
From the Greek 



Saint John Damascene 



ADUT a hundred years after Damascus was taken by 
the Saracens, there lived in that great city a pious 
and wealthy Christian. He was high in the govern- 
ment service, trusted and respected by Mussulmans and 
Christians alike ; and of the great wages he received for his 
services, he spent only a very small part on himself and his 
family, and devoted the rest to ransoming and buying the 
freedom of the many Christian slaves who were brought into 
Damascus by the wandering Arabs, the spoil of their raids. 

To this good man was born a son, the child of many prayers : 
his father named him John at his baptism, and it became 
c Icar from his earliest years that he was a child of great 
promise; he cared little for the ordinary exercises of the 
ether boys of his own age riding, shooting, use of the spear ; 
but he proved himself a wonderful scholar at his books, and 
learned as fast as he could be taught. 

So rapid was his progress, that soon his father could really 
find nobody capable of teaching him. The wise men of 
Damascus were only learned in the false learning of the Koran, 
\\hilr the Christians were few and weak, and most of them 
only knew enough letters to follow the performance of the 
Divine Liturgy. But now by God's providence our John's 
father was helped when he was most in need, and a teacher 
worthy of the pupil was found. One day the good man had 
L;onc down to the slave market, after his usual custom, to see 

75 



76 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

if there were any Christian captives whom he could ransom, 
and he saw that on this occasion some of the captives were 
being sold and some led apart to be slain by their cruel gaolers. 
Among these latter he saw one man to whom the rest clearly 
looked with great reverence : they threw themselves at his 
feet and besought him to give them absolution before they 
accomplished their great journey into the unknown, and he 
was not remiss in administering spiritual consolations to his 
doomed companions. He was a tall man with a grave and 
handsome face, dressed like a monk ; and when even the in- 
fidels were astonished at the position he held among his fellow 
captives, and the respect and veneration which they shewed 
him, both they and John's father asked him it he held any 
great dignity among them. " No worldly place or power," 
he answered, " but the dignity of a priest. Nay, more, I am 
a monk ; and I have given up my life to the study of philosophy, 
both that of the Fathers of our holy Church and that of the 
Gentiles." 

Now while he thus spoke, tears gushed from his eyes : at 
which the good man was not a little astonished, and said to 
him : " Why weep, man of God, at the approaching loss to 
you of this world ? Since by your monk's habit I see that you 
have long yourself been dead to it and all its vanities." " It 
is noUthe loss of my life for which I weep," said Cosmas (for 
that was the man's name), " but I am troubled by the thought 
of the wisdom and learning that must perish with me. I have 
given the whole period of my long life to study ; no word 
that Aristotle or Plato wrote is unknown to me ; I have 
probed the depths of science ; mathematics conceal no secrets 



SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE 77 

from me ; I have laboured at the mysteries of astronomy, so 
that by understanding the work of creation I might come to 
adore the Creator. On such foundations as these (and I did 
not forget the lighter arts of music and poetry) I built the 
superstructure of Theology, mistress of all arts and queen of 
all sciences ; and now I must go suddenly to the grave, and 
by the single stroke of a sword all these my possessions, so 
laboriously acquired, must perish, and perish utterly, leaving 
not a trace behind. Those who are in the world can beget 
children, and so when they die they at least leave something 
of themselves on the face of the earth : with us in religion 
the only substitute is to instruct a pupil and to imbue him 
\vith all that we ourselves know ; then, and only then, can \ve 
feel that we do not perish utterly without heirs and represen- 
tatives. This I have never done : I had not the time in my 
Monastery ; nor the opportunity, for never yet did I find a 
youth capable of receiving all I had to give him ; so now I 
am going to a childless death, and I shall leave no progeny 
behind me to be the heir of all that I have acquired." 

Who was delighted when he heard this but the father of 
John ? u Be patient, holy man," he cried, " and cheer up your 
drooping spirits : even now God may perhaps grant you 
your desire " : and with these words he flew off to the Caliph, 
reminded him that never before had he besought a favour of 
him, and begged that he might now have the monk's life us 
^ r ift. The monarch consented, and back again to the prisoners 
Hew the good man with his reprieve, and triumphantly 
vindicated Cosmas from his captors. " Not only are you 
free," he cried, " but henceforth a guest in mv house ; nav 

J J 



STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

more, I make you master of all I possess, under myself alone. 
In return, I ask you to teach my son John some of all that which 
you know, together with his foster-brother, who is named 
Cosmas like yourself, and who is second only to John in 
quickness and industry " : and even while he was then speak- 
ing he took the monk to his house with such expressions of 
delight and satisfaction that you might have thought he had 
found a hoard of some fabulous hidden treasure. 

The monk did not tarry in taking up the duties of his new 
office. The very next day the boys began grammar and 
rhetoric : and he did not forget the value of moral teaching, 
enabling them to suppress their passions and look calmly on 
all the things of this world even the learning of it. Thence 
they proceeded to mathematics arithmetic, algebra, geo- 
metry were all mastered in turn ; and astronomy and celestial 
mechanics followed after no long interval ; but they never 
forgot that all this learning was but a preparation for some- 
thing better still, and they showed their genius and applica- 
tion more than ever in the study of metaphysics and of the 
doctrines of Religion. At last, after the strenuous years in which 
they had passed from boyhood to manhood, acquiring know- 
ledge but not losing humility, the monk handed them back 
to John's father, saying that he had taught them all that he 
knew himself, and asking permission to retire and end his days 
in the sanctity of a monastery. With great regret he was 
allowed to do so, while the young men did not fail to add to 
their learning by private reading and to their virtue by prayer 
and the observances ordered by the Church. 

Years went slowly on. John's father died, and John, who 



SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE 79 

had followed his father's footsteps in the civil service, was 
high in the Caliph's favour, and was at last invited by him 
to become Vizier, the highest post, under royalty, that any 
commoner could obtain. John was at first extremely unwill- 
ing to accept so high an office, and it was only with great 
difficulty and after much pressure from the monarch that he 
was forced to enter upon it. He governed well and justly, 
and was respected by both Mussulman and Christian, though 
some of the former sometimes murmured that one of the 
subject race should hold the highest place in the State. 

Now- while all this had been happening at Damascus, a 
wicked Emperor had arisen in the city that w r as then the most 
important place in the Christian world, Constantinople. Leo 
was his name, and he had the fierceness and brutality of a lion, 
but not the lion's generous bravery. He fell into an unreason- 
ing hatred of all the beautiful pictures of Christ and of His 
Mother with which the Christian churches throughout his 
Empire were adorned, and tried to have them all taken down, 
broken, and thrown away. Many of his clergy were of weak 
courage, and did not dare to resist his will: some even con- 
sented to form a sham Council where the pictures were to be 
utterly condemned : but even those who did not go to these 
lengths remained silent in terror of the Imperial power. Then 
Christ and His Virgin Mother found a true champion in our 
John of Damascus, who employed all his skill and learning to 
refute the Emperor's follies, and we still possess those treasures 
of the Orthodox and Catholic Church, the treatises in which 
the Saint brings to nought by his scriptural proofs and argu- 
ments the impious speculations and tyrannical orders of the 



8o STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

Emperor : perhaps if they had never been written we should 
not to-day possess all those beautiful pictures of our Saviour, 
of our Lady Mary, and of the Saints with which our churches 
throughout the world are filled, and which are a glory to our 
houses and homes. All who were not in the wicked Emperor's 
power were convinced of John's reasoning, and good Chris- 
tians throughout the world were greatly comforted by his 
writings. 

You can imagine the Emperor's fury at the result. There 
was John, safe in Damascus at the Caliph's Court the one 
place in the world where the Emperor's power did not extend ; 
and he was unable to stretch out towards him his persecuting 
arm and punish him for his insolence (as he considered it), in 
opposing by reason and scholarship the Imperial decree. So 
he composed a very wicked, wily, clever, mean stratagem to 
ruin his enemy. He took great trouble to get hold of some 
letters which John had written with his own hand : and he 
gave them to the scribes who were always in attendance at 
his court, and bade them practise daily until they could 
imitate his handwriting so exactly that it could not be dis- 
tinguished from the true ; then, when they had accomplished 
this, he had a letter written by them counterfeiting John's 
hand, which professed to come from the Saint to himself, Leo, 
and this is how it ran : 

" Hail, Emperor ! 

" I rejoice that thou dost believe in the same religion 
as I, and I write thee something that will be greatly to thy 
advantage. Know then, that this citv of Damascus is ill 



SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE 81 

fortified, and is held but by a weak garrison of Mussulmans ; 
send hither quickly and secretly an expedition, and thou 
shalt easily take it, and I will give thee no small help when 
they arrive." 

Then the wicked Emperor, laughing to himself at what he 
thought must be the successful event of his trick, took this 
forged letter and sent it to the Caliph of Damascus, with 
another letter of his own, in which he told the Caliph that he 
stood for peace at any price, and had not forgotten the 
treaties long in force between the two countries : that 
perhaps he would like to know how he was served by his most 
trusted servants, and that he therefore enclosed a letter which 
he had just received from John, the Caliph's Grand Vizier. 

Who can describe the Caliph's fury when he received what 
he thought was a certain proof of treachery on the part of 
that servant \vhom he liked best and trusted most, on whom 
he had showered all favours and every mark of kindness and 
honour ? A man of hot and violent temper, he ordered John 
to be brought before him at once, and without allowing him 
to speak in his own defence, ordered the public executioner to 
strike off that right hand which (as he supposed) had written 
the traitor's letter, and told him to think himself fortunate 
that he had not lost his head as well as his hand. So poor 
John had to return home weeping and in pain in pain less 
bodily than in his mind, because he knew that he was unjustly 
suspected of plotting against a master whom lie had always 
served obediently and faithfully ; and he saw no way by which 
he would be able to clear his character and convince the 



82 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

Caliph that he was wrongly accused ; and the one crumb of 
comfort in his grief was that the Caliph, who had at first 
ordered the severed hand to be hung up in the market square 
as the hand of a traitor, relented so far (for he was not really 
a cruel man, only hasty and quick-tempered) that he sent it to 
him to keep in his own house, and so eased him of a little bit 
of his disgrace. 

Late that night John went into a little chapel or oratory 
which he had built in his house, and there he knelt down 
before a picture of the Blessed Virgin which he had always 
treated with the greatest respect and honour, and thus he 
prayed to her in the sweet verse he could write so well. I am 
only sorry that a translation of his hymn into English gives so 
poor an idea of the words he used ; but at any rate they were 
something like these : 

" Mother of God, most chaste, I bend in worship here before thee, 
My hand lost, which did them defend by pictures who adore thee. 
Thou knowest Leo's tricks, and more, his image-hating madness ; 
Wilt thou not then my hand restore, and change my grief to gladness ? 
The hand of God (from thee which was made man's, by Incarnation) 
Brings many mighty things to pass, by thy strong Mediation ; 
Then let It now restore my hand, thy prayers Its powers inciting, 
That all my life thy praises and thy Son's unwearied writing, 
And warring for our holy faith and combating all other, 
It still may serve thee till my death, God's good and glorious Mother ! " 

When he had finished his hymn, the pain in his wrist seemed 
to grow easier, and he fell into a gentle sleep ; and while he 
slept, the dear Mother of God appeared to him, just as he 
had always seen her in that favourite picture, and said to 
him, her eyes shining with compassion and joy : " Lo, 
here is your hand restored just as it was before ; keep your 



SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE 83 

promise, and for the whole of the rest of your life let it be 
like the pen of a ready writer to describe my praises and the 
glories of my Son " ; and when he awoke he found his hand 
joined on again to the wrist whence it had been severed, nor 
was it painful or disfigured any more. 

Although John, being in disgrace, kept as much as possible 
to his own house, yet so wonderful a thing as this could not 
be kept a secret, and it soon began to be known among the 
people of Damascus that his hand had been miraculously 
restored to him. Presently even the Caliph heard of it, and 
ordered him into his presence : after he had looked at the hand, 
he asked him what doctor had attended him, or what medi- 
cine he had used, for he would like to know by what means 
this most marvellous cure had been effected. John replied that 
it was the one Great Physician that had healed him, whose good- 
will and power towards men are equally great ; and the Caliph 
understanding that a miracle had been performed, cried out: 

" Now I see that you had done no wrong : that I condemned 
you unjustly; 'that, as too often, I was hasty and would not 
listen to your defence. I will take you back into power and 
into my favour ; and in compensation for the wrong I did 
you, ask of me any boon you please, and you shall have it." 

Now what favour do you think John asked of the Caliph ? 
Greater wealth ? More power and glory ? Or even that he 
might be put at the head of an army to take vengeance on 
the wicked and treacherous Emperor ? None of these 
indeed, you might almost call it the very opposite of them. 
He asked leave to resign his offices, to give his money, lands, 
and houses to the Christian poor of Damascus, and to be 



84 STORIES FROM THE CHRISTIAN EAST 

himself allowed to retire into a monastery near Jerusalem to 
devote himself entirely to a life of contemplation and the 
attainment of spiritual perfection. The Caliph was exceed- 
ingly loath to let him go ; not only had he found him a good 
and trustworthy servant, but he loved him personally, and did 
not want him to leave his court ; but John reminded him of 
his promise to give him any boon for which he should ask, and 
at length, though very unwilling, he had to yield, and John was 
permitted to give up all the glories of this life to die to the 
world, and live to God and Damascus knew him no more. 

Although John lived in his monastery to a great old age, 
I do not purpose to tell you at any length of his life there : 
his adventures were mostly spiritual, and his whole history 
one of progress in religion and virtue. All through his life 
as a monk he showed the humility of a saint ; and it is related 
of him that on one occasion he had offended against the rules 
of the house it was surely a very little offence, for all he had 
done was to write the words and music of a hymn for the funeral 
of the brother of one of the monks and as a penance was ordered 
to take some baskets which he had made and go to Damascus 
and sell them there in the public market. You can imagine 
the contrast between this visit and the last : then, the Vizier 
in all his glory ; now, the ragged, dusty monk (for the journey 
was long and difficult) selling cheap baskets for a few half- 
pence in the streets, and being recognised by many of those 
who were formerly his subordinates, and I do not expect that 
the Mussulmans forgot to jeer at one whom they wrongly 
considered fallen from his former high estate. But he bore 
all with great meekness, and as his life went on he was looked 



SAINT JOHN DAMASCENE 85 

upon with veneration and love by all in his monastery : he 
devoted his time to writing many of the beautiful hymns 
which the Greek Church sings in its services to this day, and 
to the compilation of a great work of philosophy and religion 
which is still a classic of the Church. Nor did he neglect 
lighter literature, so that it all tended to an edifying and 
Christian end, and I would that I had space in this book to 
write out for you the wonderful religious novel that he com- 
posed ; unfortunately it is too long to be translated here, but 
I hope that some day you will all read the Story of Earlam 
and Joasaph, which is as interesting as it is religious. 

So his life passed quickly on. His foster-brother Cosmas, 
who had had with him the advantage of instruction by the 
captive monk, and had retired with him to the monastery, 
became in turn Bishop of Majuma and Jerusalem ; and 
attempts were often made to induce John to accept similar 
high office. But he always refused, saying that he could serve 
his God better by his pen in a quiet cell than in the busy work 
of ruling a diocese ; and even when he did consent to be 
ordained priest at Jerusalem, he quickly returned to his 
monastery to work once more. So at last, full of years, 
regarded as a saint and doctor of the Church even before his 
death, he passed from his life of perfection on earth to a yet 
more perfect life above : and God grant that some day we 
may all hear from his own lips how the dear Virgin healed his 
severed hand, and find him still singing his sweet hymns to 
her and her Son in Heaven ! Amen.